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QM Research Roundup: Revolutionary devices, Osteoarthritis repair and major research grant

Revolutionary device created to lower blood pressure

According to research conducted by Queen Mary, University of London, and published in The Lancet, a revolutionary device has been shown to significantly lower blood pressure in high risk patients. The device – developed by ROX Medical and named the ‘Coupler’ – is a paper clip sized implant which is inserted between the artery and vein in the upper thigh, in a procedure lasting around 40 minutes under local anaesthetic. Compared with the usual drug treatments offered to patients with uncontrolled blood pressure, patients who received the ‘ROX Coupler therapy’ experienced a significant and durable reduction in blood pressure.

Dr Melvin Lobo, Lead Author and Principal Investigator of the study at Queen Mary, and Director of the Barts Blood Pressure Clinic at Barts Health NHS Trust, comments:

“This is an entirely new and highly promising concept in high blood pressure treatment. The Coupler effectively targets the mechanical aspects of how blood circulation works – so it’s a totally new approach to controlling blood pressure. Once the Coupler is placed, the results are also immediate, which again is unique to this treatment.”

The study’s findings show that blood pressure treatment with the ROX Coupler offers both patients and doctors an alternative option for treating high blood pressure in the future – particularly where standard therapies have failed. The study was funded by ROX Medical and Dr Lobo’s research is supported by Barts Charity.


New ‘microcapsules’ have potential to repair damage caused by osteoarthritis

A new ‘microcapsule’ treatment delivery method developed by researchers at QMUL, and funded by Arthritis Research UK and the AO Foundation, could reduce inflammation in cartilage affected by osteoarthritis and reverse damage to tissue.

The protein molecule C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), which occurs naturally in the body, is known to reduce inflammation and aid in the repair of damaged tissue. However, CNP cannot currently be used in the treatment of osteoarthritis because it is unable to target the damaged area even if the protein is injected into the cartilage tissue since CNP is easily broken down and therefore cannot reach the diseased site.

QM researchers constructed tiny microcapsules with individual layers containing CNP that could release the protein slowly and therefore deliver the treatment more effectively. In experiments on samples of cartilage taken from animals, they showed that the microcapsules could deliver the anti-inflammatory CNP directly to diseased sites with injections which could be delivered easily by a GP. Lead researcher Dr. Tina Chowdhury from QMUL’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, commented:

“If this method can be transferred to patients it could drastically slow the progression of osteoarthritis and even begin to repair damaged tissue.”

The researchers believe that injections of microcapsules in the future could be used to heal damaged cartilage in people with osteoarthritis. Dr. Chowdhury went on to say:

“CNP is currently available to treat other conditions such as skeletal diseases and cardiovascular repair. If we could design simple injections using the microcapsules, this means the technology has the potential to be an effective and relatively cheap treatment that could be delivered in the clinic or at home.”


QMUL researchers awarded £1.4m from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research

A group of scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have been awarded a £1.4 million Specialist Programme Grant from Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. The programme begins in April 2015 with an aim to uncover the cause of familial leukaemia and myelodysplasia blood disorders which cause life threatening drops in healthy blood cells in patients. The researchers include Professor Inderjeet Dokal and Dr. Tom Vulliamy, based within Queen Mary’s Blizard Institute and Professor Jude Fitzgibbon based within Barts Cancer Institute.

The laboratory research programme will include a range of cell and molecular biology techniques. The starting point for most of the experiments will be analysing whole and specific constituents of patient cells, such as DNA, RNA and proteins, obtained from blood and marrow samples and comparing them to normal controls, with recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies being crucial to the success of this programme. Professor Dokal and Dr. Vulliamy comment:

“This research award represents the most comprehensive and integrated programme to date internationally. We aim to provide a step change in the basic understanding of this group of diseases as well as in clinical management and outcomes. The research will be a collaboration, drawing on expertise across the medical school and we look forward to getting underway”.

According to Professor Fitzgibbon, the studies will enable the group of researchers to determine the causes of familial leukaemia and myelodysplasia which will encourage the development of new diagnostic genetic tests for patients, and allow clinicians to more accurately predict the number of patients with these disorders to facilitate better planning of health services. He concludes that:

“Together, this will significantly improve clinical outcomes for patients.”

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